The familiar sound of a Mac booting up is the first reassuring noise I hear every day. Before I look at any emails or otherwise taint my mind with media or ego, I open a blank InDesign document. My heart quickens, my face gets hot. Instinctively, I draw a long, deep breath. What if I can’t do it this time? What if I fail? Confronting the screen like this is a recurring, mundane moment in my everyday life, but it’s heavy. I feel the weight of it in my heart every single time. Nothing but love makes me feel this way. I am compelled.
I can’t not design. It is not my job, it is my work—in the oevre sense of the word.
There are a lot of things I want to do. I want to affect contemporary culture, get published, fall in love, but I do not want to be a designer. I have no choice. I am one; I am compelled.
Every year at our local Community College I give a guest lecture to the design students on The Business of Graphic Design. This is meant to answer the question: ‘how to succeed as a graphic designer?’ I ramble on about client relationships, project management, pricing. But really, none of that matters. Only one thing does. The few who understand that will go home and redesign bad ad layouts for fun and provide Neighbor Joe the Lawn Mower with gratis business card design capable of gracing the award issue of HOW; they are the ones who will succeed. And they don’t need my lecture to do it. They know that to be a graphic designer you have to be working. All the time. Money or no.
Coolidge said, Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Not even talent. He was right, of course. Only by doing do things get done. Practice makes perfect? It’s hackneyed for a reason. You become a designer, a good one, by doing. And when you’re not doing, you’re reading and talking and thinking about doing. Only love can engender the kind of persistence necessary to succeed. At least for me.
The ability to press on when I would rather turn off may appear to be a function of drive, but it is compulsion. It exists within me, but I didn’t put it there. I am compelled to design; to write; to surf. My work turns me on; I am in love. How lucky am I?
Find what compels you. Then for godsake get to it. It really is that easy.